Santiago v. Warminster Tp.

Decision Date14 December 2010
Docket NumberNo. 10-1294,10-1294
PartiesGloria SANTIAGO, Appellant v. WARMINSTER TOWNSHIP; Police Chief Michael Murphy; Christopher Springfield, (Retired Deputy Chief); Lt. James Donnelly, III; Police Officer Frederick Kutzer; Police Officer Jon Ogborn, Individually and as Police Officer for CBSRT/Warwick Township c/o Warwick Township c/o Warwick Police Department; Detective Wayne Jones, Individually and as Police Officer for CBSRT/Doylestown Borough c/o Doylestown Borough Police Department; Tim Murphy, Individually and as Police Officer for CBSRT.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

David F. McComb [Argued], Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer & Toddy, David H. Oh, Law Offices of David H. Oh, Philadelphia, PA, for Appellant.

Andrew J. Bellwoar [Argued], Eric M. Brown, Susan L. DiGiacomo, Siana, Bellwoar & McAndrew, Chester Springs, PA, for Warminster Township.

Christopher P. Boyle, Sr. [Argued], John P. Gonzales, Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, King of Prussia, PA, for Michael Murphy, Christopher Springfield, James Donnelly, Frederick Kutzer, Jon Ogborn, Wayne Jones and Tim Murphy.

Before: FUENTES, JORDAN and ALDISERT, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

JORDAN, Circuit Judge.

Gloria Santiago appeals from an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissing her claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Warminster Township ("Warminster" or the "Township") and three of its senior police officers, including the police chief. Santiago claims that she suffered a heart attack after being subjected to excessive force during a raid on her home. Her claims against the officers who conducted the raid were earlier dismissed as untimely, and she has not appealed that order. We thus consider only her claims against the three senior officers, who she alleges planned or acquiesced in the use of excessive force, and against the Township, which she alleges is liable for the police chief's plan because he is a final policymaker for the Township.

We conclude that, under the pleading standard set forth by the Supreme Court in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct.1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), Santiago has failed to plead sufficient factual matter to give rise to a plausible claim for relief against the senior police officers. Her claim against Warminster also must fail because Santiago has failed to plausibly plead that the police chief's conduct caused her any injury. Accordingly, we will affirm.

I. Background1
A. Warminster Conducts the "Surround and Call Out" Operation

On the morning of May 13, 2006, Warminster conducted a "surround and call out" operation at the home of Santiago, a sixty-year-old resident of Warminster. The purpose of the operation was to apprehend Steve Miranda, one of Santiago's grandsons.2 The operation was carried out by the members of "Alpha Team," a unit of the Central Bucks Special Response Team ("CBSRT"). The CBSRT is a multi-jurisdictional police agency consisting of officers representing eighteen municipalities, including Warminster. The members of Alpha Team were Detective Wayne Jones and Officers Jon Ogborn, Frederick Kutzer, and Tim Murphy. While only Officer Kutzer was employed directly by Warminster, all outside personnel and equipment were placed under the temporary control of Warminster for purposes of the May 13th operation.

At the commencement of the operation, the occupants of Santiago's home were awakened by police using a public address system. Santiago and her daughter, Gloria Cotte, looked through a window to see an armored vehicle and officers wearing combat uniforms and carrying automatic weapons. Upon seeing Cotte looking through the window, one of the officers asked her who else was in the house, to which she responded "just my family ... this is the Santiago family." (Third Am. Compl. at ¶ 35.) The officer then ordered everyone to exit the house one at a time.

Santiago was the first to come out and was commanded, at gun point, to raise her hands and walk toward the officers. When she did not raise her hands as high as an officer wanted, she was ordered to raise them higher or else be shot. When Santiago reached the officers, Officer Ogborn conducted a pat down search, which revealed no weapons but, humiliating though it was for Santiago, included touching her breasts and crotch. He then restrained her hands behind her back with a plastic zip-tie and seated her on the ground next to the police vehicle. Santiago was frightened and complained of chest pain.

After Santiago left the house, she was followed by Steve Miranda and Jonathan Miranda (her two grandsons), Herminia Miranda (her granddaughter), and Cotte (her daughter). Her two grandsons were patted down, handcuffed, and seated on the ground near Santiago. Her daughter and granddaughter were patted down but not handcuffed or seated.

Even after the police had arrested Steve Miranda—the only occupant for whom they had a warrant—Santiago remained seated and restrained. The officers instructed her and Cotte to sign a consent form allowing a search of the home. Santiago, who speaks no English and cannot read or write, did not sign and, of course, could not have unless they unbound her hands. Cotte, who later said she "felt coerced," did sign.

Santiago sat with her hands tied for approximately thirty minutes as her home was searched. Throughout that time, she was unable to interfere, was not a flight risk, and presented no danger. She continued to complain of pain and eventually told Jonathan Miranda that she felt pain in her heart. Jonathan Miranda told the officers that his grandmother was having a heart attack, and an ambulance was summoned to take her to the hospital.

B. Santiago's Complaints are Filed and Dismissed

On May 12, 2008—one day before the expiration of the statute of limitations—Santiago filed her initial complaint in the District Court, citing constitutional violations and state law tort claims and naming Warminster, Warminster's police department, John Doe police officers, and CBSRT as defendants. For reasons not pertinent here, the bulk of that complaint was dismissed, including all counts against the Warminster police department (because it was not a separate legal entity from Warminster) and CBSRT (for insufficient service of process), and, after a series of amended complaints and further dismissals, the operative pleading left in the case is Santiago's Third Amended Complaint. That complaint is framed in two counts: (1) a §§ 1983 and 1988 claim against Warminster and the individual defendants for violation of the Fourth Amendment; and (2) state law claims against the individual defendants for assault, battery, false arrest, false imprisonment, and harm resulting from a state created danger. Unlike earlier versions of the complaint, the Third Amended Complaint replaced "John Does" with the names of the officers on the scene, identifyingDetective Jones and Officers Ogborn, Kutzer, and Murphy. The Third Amended Complaint also added, for the first time, allegations against three Warminster police officers claimed to have been involved in planning and supervising the operation: Chief of Police Michael Murphy, Lieutenant Christopher Springfield, and Lieutenant James Donnelly, III (collectively, the "Supervising Officers").

The entirety of the allegations against the Supervising Officers were contained in three paragraphs:

Chief Michael Murphy is Police Chief of Warminster Township Police Department. Chief Murphy is a founding member and director of the CBSRT. Although Chief Murphy was not present at the scene on May 13, 2006, he ordered and approved the plan to execute the arrest warrants. This early morning "surround and call out" operation specifically sought to have all occupants exit the Plaintiff's home, one at a time, with hands raised under threat of fire, patted down for weapons, and then handcuffed until the home had been cleared and searched. Chief Murphy violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights in that this plan used excessive force in restraining Plaintiff, a non-target occupant who presented no threat or risk, for a lengthy period of time and used coercion in obtaining her consent to search the premises.
Christopher Springfield was a police officer with Warminster Township Police Department. On May 13, 2006, he held the rank of Lieutenant and was in [sic] placed in charge of the "surround and call out" operation by Chief Murphy. Lt. Springfield was responsible for all assets including the CBSRT and Warminster Township Police Officers. Lt. Springfield violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights in that he permitted the use of excessive force in restraining Plaintiff, a non-target occupant who presented no threat or risk, for a lengthy period of time and used coercion in obtaining her consent to search the premises.
Lt. James Donnelly is an officer with the Warminster Township Police Department. On May 13, 2006, he was also the Tactical Team Leader of CBSRT. Chief Murphy ordered Lt. Donnelly to plan and help execute an early morning "surround and call out" operation which sought to have all occupants exit the Plaintiff's home, one at a time, with hands raised under threat of fire, patted down for weapons, and then handcuffed until the home had been cleared and searched. Lt. Donnelly violated Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights in that this plan used excessive force in restraining Plaintiff, a non-target occupant who presented no threat or risk, for a lengthy period of time, and used coercion in obtaining her consent to search the premises. As Tactical Team Leader of CBSRT, Lt. Donnelly was responsible for the actions of Alpha Team.

(Third Am. Compl. at ¶¶ 21-23.)

Both Warminster and the individual defendants moved to dismiss and on December 23, 2009, the District Court issued an opinion granting the motion. First, the...

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